By Sen Kandiah –
Rt. Hon Mr Douglas Alexander MP
House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA
23rd October 2013
I am writing to express my sincere thanks regarding your recent article in the Guardian, on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka. Your calls on the UK Prime Minister, Rt. Hon David Cameron MP, to both boycott CHOGM and to establish a clear plan to support human rights improvements on the island are warmly welcomed by Tamils for Labour and many members of the diaspora community in the UK. I hope that the UK Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, as well as other Heads of Government of the Commonwealth, give serious consideration to the position the Labour Party has taken and be prepared to reconsider their participation at the event next month.
In 2009, it was a Labour Government that brought to the world’s attention the atrocities that were taking place on the island, as the armed conflict drew towards its bloody conclusion, and it was the first Government to call for a ceasefire. Since that time, the Labour Party has continued to provide tremendous support to the causes of accountability, justice, reconciliation, and human rights in Sri Lanka, including strong backing for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry, under UN auspices, to investigate the allegations of war crimes perpetrated in the final months of the war.
However, as you have attested, the situation in Sri Lanka continues to deteriorate. Human rights abuses are commonplace. There has been no accountability for the violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law committed during the armed conflict nor has a credible reconciliation process been put into effect. Commonwealth values and principles are being dishonoured on a daily basis in Sri Lanka. These circumstances should be challenged and not accepted.
Therefore, it is with great regret that the current UK Government failed to set benchmarks that had to be met by the Sri Lankan authorities, before agreeing to their participation at CHOGM. I believe that this amounts to a tacit endorsement of the disreputable policies and actions of the Rajapaksa regime and only serves to undermine UK foreign policy, as well as the credibility of the Commonwealth.
The principled position the Labour Party and the Canadian Government has taken will, I hope, be matched by India and other Commonwealth countries, including the UK, before CHOGM takes place. It is also imperative that further calls are made to bar Sri Lanka from the right to Chair the association for the next two years. A Government who wilfully violates Commonwealth principles should not have this honour bestowed upon them.
I am very grateful for Labour’s on-going vigilance regarding the situation in Sri Lanka and for the stand the Party has taken on CHOGM. You and your front bench foreign affairs team, Ed Miliband and all Labour parliamentarians have shown genuine leadership on the matters discussed above and the influence the Labour Party can continue to exert will be as important in the weeks and months ahead.
Chair, Tamils for Labour